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Local Muralist Paints Tribute to Front Line Health Care Workers

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

Now as Mission Hospital staff and patients look down at Biltmore Avenue and as people drive by Mission’s Emergency Room they will be met with a colorful and vibrant mural of gratitude for the people on the front lines of the Covid-19 epidemic— healthcare workers. 

Local muralist Ian Brownlee knew he wanted to paint a mural to thank all the hospital workers, he said. After reaching out to The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC), Brownlee was connected with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, the owner of a small building on Biltmore Avenue that is directly across from the entrance to Mission’s ER.  

“When people see it, I’m really hoping they feel appreciated,” Brownlee said. “As we have been painting it, we’ve had folks honk horns, give thumbs up and cheer as they drove by.” 

The property at 500 Biltmore Avenue was donated to Asheville Habitat and is currently being held for future sale or redevelopment consistent with the donor’s wishes. Brownlee came forward to ask about the building because the location is perfect for his message. 

“Habitat is so grateful to Ian for wanting to recognize all heath care workers, especially since a number of Habitat homeowners work in the health care field,” Sydney Monsaw, Habitat’s Sponsorship and
Stewardship Coordinator said. “It was great to partner in a different way and pay tribute to those
doing the hard, caring work for our community.”

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Muralist Ian Brownlee draws the outline of a section of his mural July 7, 2020.

Recently boards were put up and primed by a Habitat staff member to make the front building façade flatproviding Brownlee with a blank canvas. CFWNC covered the cost of painting supplies and helped supply volunteers. Bright hues of pink, blue, red, and yellow form the figures of nurses, caregivers, a janitor, and doctors with the message “thank you healthcare workers.” 

Habitat is happy to be a small part of this tribute to health care workers that mean so much right now,” Asheville Habitat’s Executive Director Andy Barnett said. “In our affordable housing work, we partner with a number of folks who are in health care professions and we want all of them to know they are appreciated.” 

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A Safe and Dignified Living Space

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

A home is more than a roof and four walls. Homeownership is the primary way Americans accumulate wealth. This is true for Victor, a retired forklift driver and Asheville High graduate, who inherited the Oakley home from his great aunt in 2018. Victor’s grandfather built this home with his own two hands in 1944.

AmeriCorps member Lucas works on the trim in the back bedroom.

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AmeriCorps member Cecily and Home Repair Supervisor Pete install new kitchen cabinets.

Home can be a safe and healthy haven, but for Victor, he found himself living in an old home with a growing laundry list of repairs including heavily deteriorating floors and walls with moisture-ridden wood, and faulty plumbing. Victor’s cerebral palsy means he is unable to repair and upkeep with the growing number of problems in his home, even with family regularly checking in and assisting him.

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AmeriCorps Jeannie installs vinyl flooring in the kitchen.

Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair team demolished the kitchen, back bedroom, and bathroom to repair the floor framing and install vapor barriers and insulation. New subflooring and vinyl flooring were installed and plumbing was fixed in the bathroom and kitchen. While new and sturdy floors gave the three rooms a whole new feel, new kitchen appliances and fresh paint and trim really made the place shine. Victor and his family expressed how much they love the work that was done. Victor can now live safer and with dignity in his family’s home.

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The finished kitchen

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New kitchen appliances

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completed bathroom

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Completed back bedroom

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New walk-in shower

New Partnership to Meet Senior Housing Needs

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Though older adults (age 55+) comprise 20% of Buncombe County’s population, they have limited access to affordable housing options designed to meet their needs. Coordinator for Buncombe County Aging Plan Alison H. Climo shared, “Neither the current housing stock nor the booming development of new housing matches the expressed desire among older and aging residents to age in place. Buncombe County needs housing options that are affordable but also accessible to enable people of all ages, and all people as they age, to remain in the home of their choice.”

To that end, in the first phase of construction at its upcoming New Heights neighborhood (off of Old Haywood Road), Habitat will build 8 single-level townhomes specifically for aging adults, thanks to generous support from local retirement community, Deerfield. Funding from Deerfield and its newly formed Charitable Foundation includes a Full House Sponsorship ($55,000) on each of the 8 units, as well as $50,000 to research and develop senior-oriented house designs, financing options and HOA management.

“The ability to age with safety and dignity and to live in an age-friendly community shouldn’t be an option reserved for the wealthy. Everyone deserves to live in a stable, affordable home – in all stages of life. We are incredible grateful for Deerfield’s partnership in this important work of ensuring more of our aging neighbors have a safe, affordable home,” said Andy Barnett, Asheville Habitat’s Executive Director.

Specifically designed for and sold to qualified older adults, Habitat’s senior housing will include universal design elements such as:

  • An at-grade or ramped entrance to the main floor or the capability to easily install a ramp
  • Entry doorways and passageways at least 36″ wide
  • A bathroom that will accommodate a wheelchair in a 365-degree circle
  • One-level living that includes a full bath, kitchen, laundry, living space and 1+ bedroom
  • Additional occupant-specific accommodations

 

Site of New Heights as of Dec. 2019.

Like all Habitat homeowners, senior homebuyers will repay an affordable mortgage. To help identify potential homebuyers, Asheville Habitat will leverage existing relationships with Council of Aging, Land of Sky Regional Council and other agencies.

“We are so glad to be able to support affordable housing for seniors in Buncombe County. Deerfield residents have communicated their passion and support for Habitat in such practical ways over the years – consistent volunteerism and generous donations! We listened and are affirming their commitment to Asheville Habitat by investing nearly half a million dollars in the organization’s good work,” remarked Michelle Wooley, Director of Philanthropy at Deerfield.

To learn more about Habitat homeownership (senior housing or traditional single-family and townhome models) here or call 828.210.9362. Information sessions are held multiple times each month and the schedule of upcoming dates can be found on the website.

Welcome This Year’s Service Members!

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is pleased to add seven new team members who, through programs including AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Hands and Feet of Asheville, are beginning their year of service. Service program participants significantly increase Asheville Habitat’s ability to empower Buncombe County residents with affordable housing.

Their impact is felt in nearly every corner of the organization. On the construction side, Jeannie Goldenberg and Chris Nolan have begun their year with the Home Repair team and will be joined by another AmeriCorps member, Lucas Hanson, in October. Accompanying Asheville Habitat’s three full-time Home Repair staffers, the AmeriCorps members double the team’s efforts to reach the fiscal year goal of 70 families served through the Home Repair program.

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Americorps Mackenzie Hampson served from 2018-2019 with the New Home construction team.

“We would not be able to meet this aggressive goal without the increased capacity provided by our AmeriCorps members,” notes Home Repair Manager Joel Johnson. “Specifically, having AmeriCorps members has enabled us to work with partner agencies to do more Aging in Place work in the past 12-18 months. This program serves some of the most vulnerable people in our community and is an increasingly large part of our team’s work.”

On the new home side of construction, Thomas Brennan is now leading volunteer groups in the building of new affordable homes at Curry Court in Candler. And in the administrative office, Krysta Osweiler, Cecily Schenimann, and Deanna McDonnell are working behind the scenes on volunteer management and recruitment, family services support and outreach, and office management.

While Asheville Habitat benefits from the generosity of these talented and driven individuals, participants benefit too. They look back

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Sydney Monshaw, AmeriCorps member from 2017 – 2019 spent two terms with Home Repair. She was recently hired on full-time as a Home Repair Supervisor.

at their service year as immensely rewarding and a powerful growth experience. In the past two years, after completing their terms, three AmeriCorps members were hired on as full-time Asheville Habitat staffers in the ReStore, in new home construction, and in the Home Repair department. Other service year members have gone on to graduate school, joined the workforce, or signed on for another year of service with Asheville Habitat or elsewhere.

Ryan Bing, an AmeriCorps member in 2017-2018 with Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair team, went to graduate school at Clemson University after completing his service year. During his year repairing homes in all corners of Buncombe County, he learned a wide range of technical skills as well as a lot about himself, he said.

“Honestly the nature of our job and the nature of Home Repair, involves doing a lot of unpleasant things sometimes and it can be incredibly humbling,” Bing said. “Not doing it specifically for a thank you or a salary or something like that- is something you can really carry forward in many aspects of life.”

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Ryan Bing, right, working alongside a volunteer during a community project at Asheville High School.

#build828

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Become a member of #build828, a monthly giving club, to support Asheville Habitat’s work of building and repairing affordable housing in Buncombe County.

A empty field to 21 homes, a thriving community

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Asheville Habitat is excited to announce the completion of its first neighborhood in South Buncombe- a 21-home community in Arden. Preliminary infrastructure began in the fall of 2016 and the last family bought their home, Student Build #4, in April of 2019.

AmeriCorps Get Things Done

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By Maddy Alewine  It’s hard to put into a nice, neat paragraph how AmeriCorps impacts Asheville Habitat and in turn, the community. This year’s five AmeriCorps- Sydney, Billy, Nora, Kaitlyn, and Mackenzie- started their year with us jumping in head first, taking on each new challenge with gusto and passion.

It begins with us

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

The results of the 2018 midterms are usually described in superlatives. The 2019 congressional freshman class is the most racially diverse and the most female

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Partial group photo at Capitol Hill

group ever elected to the House. From the first Native American Congresswomen and the first Muslim Congresswomen to the most number of veterans, one of the largest freshman congressional classes is bringing a lot of diverse voices to the table. Last week, hundreds of Habitat for Humanity homeowners, volunteers, board members, and staff descended on Washington D.C. for the annual Habitat on the Hill (HOTH), to meet with this class of firsts and the hundreds of other legislators that represent our states.

Habitat also had a first. With over 350 attendees from 38 states and D.C., this was the largest Habitat on the Hill to date. Habitat representatives from Maine to Hawaii filled the conference room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C., and Asheville was in attendance- myself, Homeowner Selection Specialist and Habitat homeowner Shannon Kauffman, and former Board chair David Whilden.

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[From left] Maddy, Shannon, and David

The three of us were new to HOTH and Tuesday Feb. 12 we dove headfirst into a day of training, speakers, collaboration, and learning to prepare us for our meetings with legislators the next day. While I could spend days writing everything I learned, my biggest takeaway is best summed up by Habitat International’s Chief Operating Officer Tjada D’Oyen McKenna: “Advocacy is vital to Habitat’s mission that everyone has a decent place to live.”

The whole time there was this sense of urgency that flowed between all of us, enforced by the fact that so many of us felt it important enough to travel from so far to D.C. (I see you, Hawaii) and devote time away from our usual tasks to become better advocates. The simple truth is this: Habitat for Humanity can no longer just build houses. That’s just not who we, as an organization, are anymore- we’re more than that. Advocating for affordable housing policies has to become a part of every Habitat affiliate’s DNA in order to a) be able to continue building and repairing affordable homes despite the rising cost of building and housing and b) advocate for policies so people don’t have to need Habitat to have a decent, affordable place to live.

In our day of training, author Richard Rothstein who wrote The Color of Law, spoke to the crowd about the history of how our government at the local, state and federal levels segregated housing. The harsh reality is that black homeownerhsip is at the same level as when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. Fifty-one years and it hasn’t changed. We cannot talk about affordable housing solutions without the undeniable truth that unconstitutional housing policy did and still does leave people of color, particularly black communities, far behind in the ability to accumulate wealth and have a decent place to live. We all have a responsibility to remedy this.

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Shannon and David outside Rep. David Price’s office after greeting his staff.

The next day armed with knowledge, our local stories, and specific policy asks, David, Shannon and I put on our best walking shoes and trudged around the Senate and House buildings to meet with our elected officials. While we did not have a scheduled meeting with Rep. Mark Meadows, while getting slightly lost on our way to drop off materials at his office, we ran into the Congressman and spoke for a minute. He seemed genuinely pleased we had come from Asheville to bring housing concerns of Western NC to the Capitol. We also stopped in the office of Rep. David Price. Although not our district, this NC Congressman chairs the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

For our next stop, we teamed up with about 15 fellow North Carolinians from Habitats around the state to meet with a staff member of Sen. Burr. While meeting with a staff member seems less exciting than the actual elected official, legislators’ staff often have more in-depth knowledge about specific issues and are the ones discussing these with their respective Senator or Representative. Legislative Assistant Robert Sneeden asked questions and was engaged as homeowners shared how owning a home has empowered them, as eastern state Habitats talked about the need for disaster relief, the rising cost of housing, the importance of AmeriCorps and much more.

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A group photo after our meeting with Sen. Burr’s Legislative Assistant Robert Sneeden.

A much smaller group- the three of us from Asheville, two from Charlotte and one staff member from Fayetteville- then ran (literally) back to the previous Senate building to meet with staff from Rep. Patrick McHenry. Meeting with Rep.

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[Left to right] Shannon, David, and Brandon Price of Fayetteville Habitat in Rep. McHenry’s office.

McHenry’s Legislative Director Doug Nation, we got to have much more personal conversations. We talked a lot about a common stereotype about Habitat- that Habitat gives houses away to people that are homeless. Shannon shared her story that echoed the reality that people who qualify for Habitat homes are bank tellers, hospital workers, barbers, servers, teachers, and other full-time working professionals because housing is just that expensive and affordable housing is scarce. Mr. Nation even shared with us that he used to volunteer with Habitat while in college, which speaks to the wide reach Habitat has. It’s hard to meet someone who hasn’t volunteered with, donated to, worked for, bought a house through, or at least heard of Habitat.

It’s easy to be cynical about politics. I know I usually am. But something stuck with me that David Dworkin, President and CEO of the National Housing Conference said during our training. He said that yes, big money opens doors on Capitol Hill and that’s a fact. But, those money interests only lobby so hard as to compete with the power of all of our voices. As Asheville Habitat grows its ability to advocate more, we are alongside a network of thousands all across the country utilizing Habitat’s powerful voice- that reaches Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between- with the message that
everyone deserves a decent place to live.

The Unpaid Bills… But Not the Kind You’re Thinking

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By Sydney Monshaw

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity has many unpaid Bills – but not the kind you’re thinking. These Bills have chosen to be left unpaid, donating their time and energy, often a few times a week, to help build and repair homes for families, primarily in Buncombe county. Though one Bill volunteers in Henderson County, too! There are seven Bills in total, but as Bill Durant a Friday Core volunteer mused, “Comparable to the stack on my desk – both are increasing.” While this group started as something silly to refer to the growing number of core volunteers named Bill who receives their pay in the form of gratitude and sore muscles, The Unpaid Bills has become an identity for these men who make up a community within the larger group of weekly Core Habitat construction volunteers.

Bill Reid, Bill Ryan, Bill Winkler, part of the Thursday core volunteers

Bill Lineberry

This group of dedicated Bills ranges in years of experience, some having as many as 15 years as a volunteer. The rookie Bill, also the medical Bill (a retired doctor), will be celebrating his one year anniversary as a core volunteer this December. Most, however, fall somewhere in the middle, with about 7 years of service on average. At least one Bill is out on the new home construction job site almost every day of the week! On Mondays Bill Winkler represents the “Unpaid Bills,” Tuesday Bill Bechtold and Bill McDowall hold down the fort, Thursday Bill Winkler joins Bill Reid and Bill Ryan for his second shift of the week, and on Friday Bill Durant, Bill Kantonen, and Bill Lineberry are working hard to close out the week. All of these Bills are committed to building a better future, one day at a time.

When asked what they enjoy most about volunteering, here is what a few Bills had to say:

“I enjoy all aspects of volunteering -The work fits my desired activities and skill set; the other volunteers and staff are exactly the type of people I enjoy being around – the BEST! The satisfaction of contributing to the Asheville community is highly rewarding.” – Bill Winkler (Tuesday, Thursday)

“I enjoy most the camaraderie with my fellow volunteers and in helping people who are willing to try to improve their situation in life.” – Bill Durant (Friday)

Bill Durant

“Helping folks, camaraderie of the build teams, and learning how to build/repair things the right way. (Also the nutritious break time snacks.)” – Bill Reid (Thursday)

“Helping deserving people have a home of their own while working with great bunch of people. It has also been a great hands-on learning experience. Although I had done some construction work and have a General Contractors License, I was surprised at how little I really knew.”– Bill McDowall (Tuesday)

Bill McDowall

“There are multiple factors that I like about volunteering, foremost among these are:

  1. The efficiency of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Organization
  2. The professionalism of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity staff
  3. The camaraderie among Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers
  4. The opportunity to contribute to the local community in a meaningful way.” – Bill Bechtold (Tuesday)

Bill Bechtold

 

“What I like best is the combination of fun work that benefits the community and the opportunity to work with great future homeowners (super folks), great staff, and great volunteers. Making a difference.” – Bill Ryan (Thursday)

Bill Kantonen

You would never know that the Bills go unpaid at Habitat. They work with integrity and commitment, living out the mission of Habitat – bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope. For them, it is about so much more than the lumber, nails, paint, and shingles that create a house – it is about the community, camaraderie, and sense of belonging that truly builds a home. Bill Bechtold captured perfectly the feeling of being one of the “Unpaid Bills.” He said, “Being an Unpaid Bill reminds me to feel grateful that I am healthy enough and fortunate enough to do something meaningful in the community for people who deserve a hand up.”

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is fortunate to have so many unpaid Bills who keep coming back week after week. They, like all of the core volunteers, take home their pay stubs in the form of muddy boots and strong friendships, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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